Review: The Fumbally - 'Chewy, with a hint of burnt sugar... this is the pavlova of your dreams'
THE FUMBALLY, Fumbally Lane, Dublin 8, (01) 5298732, thefumbally.ie
There was a conversation on Twitter recently between restaurant critics and others about whether they gave scores as part of their reviews. The consensus seemed to be that critics would prefer not to have to score, while readers like to know how things stand on an identifiable scale.
The format of this review does incorporate a scoring system, with marks awarded for food, ambience and value. Occasionally, a reader will query how a simple café can score as highly as a Michelin-starred restaurant - to my mind the rating is a judgement on how successfully the establishment meets the criteria which it has set itself. So a sandwich bar that aims to deliver truly fantastic sandwiches, and does so, will score higher than a 'fayn dayning' restaurant where the food is derivative and pretentious.
You'll note that The Fumbally's score is high, up there with the best. If you've eaten there, you'll understand why and, if you haven't, well... it's time to rectify that.
The Fumbally is a daytime only restaurant except for Wednesday evenings, when a different kind of menu is on offer and there is table service. Although I've been for breakfast and lunch on many occasions, I'd never had dinner before.
The space is large and airy, with tables on different levels and an eclectic array of furniture. The people are eclectic too, not the homogeneous trendy bunch that you'd perhaps expect. Yes, there's a fair cohort of cool-looking folk, but not so many as to dominate. It feels as if we could be in Berlin.
I like when a restaurant's customers defy being lumped together and labelled, it makes for a more interesting people-watching experience. So there are young and not-so-young, solo diners and groups of friends, couples and a fair smattering of well-behaved dogs. I'm with two of my daughters, but we haven't brought our dogs and we are envious of those whose animals are well-behaved enough to lie peacefully at their owners' feet, seemingly oblivious to the good smells circulating in the air above them. Ours would be up and trying to snaffle food at every opportunity, letting us down.
The evening menu consists of snacks, small plates and one dessert option. Between the three of us, we order everything on the menu to share. The only problem with this is that the food comes as it is ready, which is pretty much all at the same time, and our table is very small, so there is a period when things get congested. It would be good if the delivery could be staggered.
On the First Up section of the menu there's Le Levain bread (or heroin bread as it's known in my house, where people have been known to get up in the middle of the night to eat it; they say that they hear it calling to them from the kitchen) and fennel butter, simple and chewily satisfying.
A cup of gazpacho, paler in colour than the traditional late-summer more tomato-y version, this one made with lots of almonds, comes with basil leaves and a slick of good olive oil across its surface, cold and fresh-tasting.
There's hummus with delightful seeded crackers, and something called a smoked Gubbeen melt which turns out to be a cheesy potato-y version of arancini, and frankly what's not to like about that?
The small plates are equally invigorating. Porco Tonnato is the only one of the five that contains meat - in fact the only dish on the whole menu that does. It's a version of vitello tonnato made with shaved porchetta rather than the usual veal, topped with tuna sauce and capers that enrich and lend piquancy.
Green beans come with labneh and a spicy Lebanese chili oil, and there are roast potatoes from the lovely McNally Family Farm in north Dublin - the Fumbally's version of chips - served with lovage aioli, the celery-like flavour of the herb a fine complement for the organic spuds.
Pan Tomaca - more heroin bread - is topped with garlicky full-flavoured tomatoes, fresh basil and bocconcini (tiny buffalo mozzarellas), and a summer salad is all crisp and crunch, with chicory leaves, pumpkin seeds and pomegranate in a light lemony dressing.
Between them the dishes are healthy-tasting without being in any way punitive; together they make a beautifully balanced meal that I'd defy anyone not to enjoy. It's exactly how we all want to eat at the moment, making the best of local and seasonal ingredients but not being so hamstrung by locavorism that the kitchen can't use lemons and olive oil and pomegranate when they bring something to the flavour party.
I'm not much of a dessert eater, but the pavlova at The Fumbally is made by someone who has the meringue thing down to a tee - I think that it's something in the genes. Chewy, with a hint of burnt sugar, strawberries and toasted hazelnuts, this is the pavlova of your dreams.
We drank a bottle of Mas Lau Cuvée L - a silky natural wine made from the carignan grape priced at a more than reasonable €32, a Whiplash Rollover Session IPA and a Lemon Turmeric and Ginger Fizz. Our bill came to €98.50 before service.
9/10 value for money
ON A BUDGET
At breakfast, which is served all day, the famous Fumbally eggs (lightly scrambled with olive oil, Gubbeen cheese and garlic served with sautéed kale, toasted sunflower seeds and homemade hot sauce on toasted Tartine multigrain organic sourdough) cost €6.50.
ON A BLOW OUT
Order everything on the Wednesday night dinner menu and your bill will come to around €60 before drinks.
THE HIGH POINT
Modern food that's full of flavour.
THE LOW POINT
Our table was too small.